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Windows System Image - Make Sure You Have One

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Salty Dog

Turned on my computer and got the dreaded beep code that Hard-drive wasn't accessible. Had this happen a few months ago and then it started working again. This time it was not responding or even running. Opened computer, switched cables to make sure they were OK. No problem there. A few more tries starting computer and all of a sudden it would not come on. Removed drive and computer would come on. Put drive back in, nothing. 


Lucky for me, for the first time ever, I had copied a full system image to another drive a few weeks ago. But I didn't create a restore CD/DVD. Did a little research and found out any Windows 7 machine could create a restore disk. No problem since I have a net-book with Windows 7. So started it up and went to create one on a USB Flash-drive. Opps, can only do it on a CD/DVD and my net-book doesn't have one. Figured since I was going to SM to get a new drive, that I could probably get one there.


So off to the store to buy a new drive. The old one was built 2006 so I guess 7 years isn't bad. Bought a new 1 terabyte to replace the old 300GB drive. Asked the repair guy at the shop I bought the drive from if they could make me a restore dick and I would pay them for it. He was like daaaaa, bring the computer in and they will check it out. I don't think so.


OK I try a repair shop. I ask them if they have restore disk or if they can just make me one. They said they don't know what I'm talking about. I said don't you replace drives. Yes but all we do is format it, the owner has to install the software. I try one more repair shop, you would think I would have learned by now. They looked at me with that I don't have any idea what you are talking about stare and said no sir, we can't do that.


The hell with it. I take my new drive home, test it before I install it and it's running ok. Dig out a portable CD/DVD writer I remembered I had and hooked it to my net-book. Took me 2 minutes to create the restore disk. Put it in the CD/DVD drive and works like a charm. 2.5 hours later, the entire image was on the new drive. Crossed my fingers, rebooted, and it was as if nothing had happened.


If you've been backing up your files regularly like I do, I can tell you that it won't come close to getting you back up and running where you were when the drive crashes. If you have a system image though, it restores everything including all those little tweets you've made over the years to your system. In fact I haven't even had to restore any files from my backup yet. There are probably a few photos and documents that I will find missing , but I can restore them as I need them.

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Or... you can do what I do... just back up the important stuff to a USB memory stick (or similar device) and consider disk crashes, or other catastrophic failures, a good opportunity for spring cleaning as it always turns out I need less than ~30% of the programs/other garbage I had on the drive(s) anyway. My experience with re-imaging has taught me that clean installs work better for a variety of reasons.

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1 - Buy and install VMWare on the PC

2 - Use a VM for everything you do

3 - Have a beer

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I know this may create some backlash, but one of the reasons I switched to Apple products is the Time Machine process. I use a wifi setup to do the backups so it essentially runs in the background. The TM will back up whatever files and apps you have designated and does and incremental backup on an hourly basis. It can even be set up to back up to two separate drives so you can use a MacBook in two places and alwasy have a backup.


I also use Carbon Copy Clone to do a backup to an external hard drive, at times of my choosing. Finally, every week or so I do backups of fotos and music onto another drive. These are the most irreplaceable files for me.


I know a switch to apple is like learning to drive on the other side of the road. Once you make the change, it becomes easier the more you use the apple OS.

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